Are motor graders the hardest heavy equipment to operate?
Operating any heavy construction equipment like excavator, backhoe loader or motor grader is not at all a cake walk. This calls for complete understanding of the equipment and a particular skill set to perform the tasks efficiently and accurately.
Generally, out of all the heavy equipment, motor graders are perceived to be the most difficult vehicles to drive. This is because of the fact that they are a bit different from the others in terms of setting the controls such as the angle and height of the blade which requires certain skills, especially when setting them to obtain fine degree of result.
Well, agreed that motor graders are a bit different to operate but it is not that difficult. Be it a motor grader, excavator or backhoe loader, being able to work to fine measurements is part of the job. In order to produce finished results that perfectly match the desired level is a result of good training and experience behind the controls and understanding of the equipment and its various parts.
Decoding motor graders
Typically, motor graders can be used for making mix, laying a patch, widening shoulders, cutting back slopes, ditching, scarifying, drying material and removing snow. Before discussing the motor grader operating tips, it is important to understand the motor grader basics.
Motor graders are basically used to level or smoothen out an area. They have a long wheel base that can span short depression or humps. Typically, motor graders possess a centrally located blade that can be angled to cast out on either side. The part of the grader which is used to cut, mix, windrow and spread material is called the mouldboard. Mouldboard with the cutting blade is attached to the circular part of the motor grader located under the frame i.e., the circle. The mouldboard allows the blade to be adjusted for height, angle, pitch and reverse direction. Blade angle refers to the angle of the blade in relationship with the mainframe which generally represents a 180 degree or straight line. The mouldboard forms angles with the frame.
After understanding the motor grader basics, let’s take a look at some motor grader operating tips that can make them easier to operate...
1. Knowing about the correct positioning of the mouldboard is extremely important. The mantra is that it should be always kept straight up and rolling the grader blade forward to make the edge blunt. This also results in better rear visibility and the operator can finish the task easily.
2. When ripping across a slope, the mouldboard should be kept parallel with the front axle, centred to the frame and lowered close to the ground to provide protection against rolling over.
3. Motor grader’s mouldboard can be adjusted in a variety of ways. The mouldboard can be raised and lowered as little as a fraction of an inch to adjust to the grade being finished. The sharper the angle of the mouldboard, the more earth will spill off the heel.
4. For light and free-flowing material, mouldboard angles of 10 to 30 degrees should be used and when processing of wet and sticky material, mixing large windrows and ditching is required, higher mouldboard angles of 30 to 50 degrees should be used.
5. The motor grader should never be articulated when operating on steep slopes as the grader can roll over and sever personal injury or death can be caused.
6. Articulating the rear frame toward the toe of the mouldboard by 2 to 5 degrees helps reduce motor graders’ tendency to bounce and this is extremely effective when cutting out washboards.
7. When using the ripper, the teeth should be lowered into the ground with the grader in motion. If the rear wheels lose traction, operators need to raise the ripper until the wheels regain traction. For especially hard surfaces, the number of teeth should be reduced. To break old pavement, teeth under the pavement should be lowered and the ripper should be raised.
8. The quality of work performed with the motor graders is highly affected by the operating speed. So, the machine travel speed should be kept as high as possible for maximum productivity. However, it should be low enough to prevent machine bounce (generally 3 to 5 mph).
9. All the motor graders possess control levers which help in changing the position of the mouldboard and a clear understanding of these controls is extremely essential.
10. When turning around the motor grader, the wheels should always be leaned in the direction in which the turn is being made. This will help the motor grader to turn with ease.
11. Only required amount of downward pressure should be applied to accomplish any task as excessive unnecessary downward pressure on hard and dry surface can cause rapid cutting edge wear and will require more horsepower and fuel, thereby, reducing productivity.
12. When operating, it is imperative to watch both ends of the blade as lifting one end of the blade may cause the other end of the blade to drop about ¼ of that distance.
13. If the circle is not in a level, then the blade setting may change with the angle of the blade.
14. For cutting soft material, the blade should be pitched backward and for mixing, laying operation and cutting on hard surface, the blade should be pitched slightly forward. For spreading or maintaining surface material and for snow removal, the blade should be pitched farther forward.
15. For removing snow, always drive straight and never put so much down pressure that the front wheels are raised to a point that steering becomes ineffective.
These are just few of the common motor grader operating tips and the list is long. Well, by looking at the above mentioned steps, one can say that motor graders are the hardest heavy equipment to operate but it is not like that. Motor graders just need certain understanding of the equipment and some experience. Otherwise, they are fairly equal to other machines when it comes to operating them.